Gain Ground
Release year - USA:1991
Company: Renovation
System: Genesis
Genre: Shooter, strategy
Players: 1-2

Review by: PrimeOp

In the future, the nations of the world have achieved a state of peaceful co-existance. But to keep the fighting spirit alive in the populace, scientists create a virtual-reality war simulator named Gain Ground, where combat could be waged in every time era. Does it go horribly awry? Of course it does! When the machine goes out of control, it captures the soldiers training in it.

Three soldiers are sent into the program to rescue the P.O.W.s and subdue the program from within. Gain Ground (the home game, not the berzerk virtual-reality program) is a bird's-eye view (or top-down view) character shooter. Each level is its own time period which is broken up into 10 sections. Your goal is to either destroy all of the enemies in the level (a non-scrolling screen) or get all of your troopers through the exit. That 10th section has a guardian boss that must be defeated in order to pass (but you also have to kill off all the minor enemies there too). Sounds like your average top-down 'Commando' style game, right? Oh no. Not even close. You can't just choose any character and blaze your way through. This game requires some serious pre-planning.
This guy with the spear can aim high and hit all of the roof-bound enemies. Guys like him will come in handy for situations like this.

Pop quiz, hot shot: you've got to rescue that hostage without absolutely, positively killing every MF'er in the room. WHAT DO YOU DO? You do THIS.
Unlike most shooters (or games for that matter), you don't get multiple lives of the same character. Instead, you start with three different characters: a 20th century soldier, a caveman and a futuristic amazon. Each of them, and the characters you rescue by escorting them through the exit, have their own walking speed, main weapon (with it's own range, shooting speed and power) and special weapon. Those rescued allies become playable characters for the next scene. Figuring out which characters are suited for specific situations is the first hook of the game. Enemies on higher ground can only be taken out by long-distance weapon characters (archers, spearmen or some rocket launcher carrying soldiers) while troops in trenches can be killed by grenades. Be careful: get a character injured and THAT character will become a P.O.W. that needs to be led through the exit as well. If you don't have the properly-equipped troops to kill all the on-screen enemies, you'll have to lead all of your characters through the exit. However, the level ends when you kill all of the enemies whether or not all of the P.O.W.s have been taken through the exit. You'll have to figure out which enemies to leave alive as you escort the freed prisoners if you want to build a strong army.

The game is filled with a ton of detail but never seems cluttery. Each of the 20 unique characters has their own portrait and some of their details can be seen even in the tiny sprites. It'd be great if the characters' names were in the game itself so I can stop referring to them with names like "Bald Caveman Guy", "Bootleg Slow-motion Robocop" and "Top-heavy futuristic Amazon with German stick-grenades". The sound? The music's pretty nice, especially Level 1. The sounds effects are just typical Genesis shooter sounds, but do a good job in alerting to different things going on in the level. Beware, though, this game is tough, possibly even TONKA TOUGH, but fair. Still, this game would've benefitted from a password, because it's a long game. It's a two-player co-op game, which evens up the odds against the enemy. The only problem is that you'll have to split the captives with your partner. If your friend doesn't know how to share (like those jerks who eat all the food in co-op games even though you have less health), you're going to have a crappy time trying to beat this game. Here's tip for real life: don't even hang out with people like that anyway. Get some real friends.
Two players mean double the fun! But don't be a greedy character grabber! Both players will need balanced troop rosters to work effectively. If you know the POW's strong points, try to plot out who gets which character ahead of time.

Easily one of my favorite top-down shooters ever. Fans of games like Commando, Ikari Warriors, and Mercs might get a kick out of this game, even though this isn't exactly like the rest of the crowd. The game is hard, but fair, and there's a level-select cheat that makes up for the lack of a password system and you'll get to see the whole thing. This game is definitely worth a try. Bootleg Slow-motion Robocop will thank you for it.

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